Lighting or illumination in Interior Design is the holy grail of great design. Defined, it is the deliberate use of light to achieve either an aesthetic or practical effect by incorporating either artificial light sources such as lamps or other light fixtures.
Research has shown that a properly lit room can enhance task performance, and have positive psychological effects like improving mood and overall energy levels. In addition, interior lighting can completely elevate your room giving it that wow factor.
However, it may seem obvious, but each room requires different levels of illumination. For example, bedroom lighting and kitchen lighting are two rooms that involve separate tasks at hand and different colour temperatures for the desired ambiance or mood. When choosing light fixtures it's important to identify certain key factors of a room such as architectural style, direction, and dimensions. Here are our top lighting tips for the interior of your home!
Consider Room Direction
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When you understand the orientation of your room you can use that to determine the light levels you will require. North and east-facing rooms should try to maximize the quality of light since north-facing homes don't get as much direct sunlight and east-facing homes get bright light first thing in the morning. South and west-facing rooms will need controlling since these rooms generally receive lots of light.
There is nothing we love more than a beautiful symphony of a well-lit room. In interior design, this is achieved by taking into consideration different lighting layers or types of interior light. The main types are ambient (or general), task, and focal (or accent) lighting.
Ambient or General Lighting is intended for the general lighting of a room or area but can also establish a mood. Think of a uniform glow intended for functionality rather than aesthetics. A central chandelier, pendants, or recessed downlights are commonly used for general lighting.
Task Lighting as its name points out is for a specific task at hand such as reading. These lights are generally brighter and have a stronger wattage. Under-cabinet millwork lighting is an example of task lighting. Make sure to incorporate ambient light to balance that sharp contrast and avoid eye strain.
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Focal or Accent Lighting is mainly for decorative use to highlight certain elements like a hung picture, or other featured elements in interior design. It is similar to task lighting in that it needs more light output or higher wattage.
When sourcing lights remember not to confuse task lighting with task light. A task light is a fixture, and task lighting refers to the application. Certain fixtures like vanity lighting, pendants, and recessed downlights can provide task lighting. Task lamps or lights are often fixtures that are portable with a cord but are not limited to desk or table lamps for example.
Color-Rendering Index (CRI) & Color Temperature (K)
Simply put, CRI is color accuracy or a measure of the effect of lighting on the color appearance of an object that is being illuminated. Ideally, try to opt for a CRI in the 80s as this is a good benchmark for most generals tasks. Halogen and incandescent lamps always have a CRI of 100, while most high quality LED lamps will have a CRI of at least 80.
Light Bulb Types
Now that you have a brief understanding of the Color-Rendering Index (CRI) & Color Temperature (K) it's best to also have a brief understanding of bulb types. There are many variables to bulb types so important to understand the technology behind each so you can make an informed decision when you are out shopping for a bulb that is best suited for your light fixture.
These finer details may be overlooked especially when are so focused on the final design, but as we've mentioned before that design is all-encompassing. It's not only about that pretty picture and more so about the finer details behind it. Did you know? If you were to use a halogen bulb in your fixture for 5 hours a day, you would need to change that bulb out about once every year? Vs. an LED bulb which is much more efficient all around and will last nearly 20-30 years!
Light Effects On Paint Colour
Paint colour rendering is a considerable element that is often overlooked when homeowners decide to renovate. The CRI (colour rendering index) that was just discussed has to be considered when designing a room especially before you pick up a paintbrush. Different light sources such as sunlight and artificial light sources from a lamp will reveal subtle variations in colour shades.
When deciding on the perfect shade, a tip is to start small. Invest in paint samples first, paint or pin them directly on the wall so you can literally see how they look throughout the day. Natural daylight will show the truest colour, incandescent bulbs will render warmer even yellow tones, and fluorescent with cooler even blue tones. LED's come in warmer and cooler options.
Our tip is to always always always use natural daylight when specifying which paint colours you desire since artificial lighting can be controlled a lot easier vs. having to repaint an entire room. However, remember that the two types of light (artificial and natural) go hand in hand so look at the paint samples together in natural lighting and while the artificial light is on.
Pro Tip: Get a sample size paint pot of the color you like. Paint it on the walls in different areas such as close to a window where there is natural light and then also in a darker area of the room. Live with the color on your walls for a few days to see it in different lighting throughout the day. This is the only way you will be sure to love your paint color 24 hours a day!
Artzy Fartzy Creations
Although there are several factors that impact the selection of the light fixtures you source, it's important to first determine the necessary dimensions (length, width, height) of the space to be illuminated in order to select the best-suited fixture.
One of the aspects of great design is understanding scale and proportion. I mean, what's the point of sourcing a beautiful chandelier for your dining room that takes away from the design rather than complimenting the room right?
Foyers and Entrances
Foyers or entrances need adjustable ambient lighting for tasks such as cleaning and low lighting for evening ambiance or entertaining guests. If the area is tall, opt for a hanging chandelier or hanging pendant fixture to fill the void.
Depending on the mood and preference you are trying to create in your living room, remember the lighting layer approach we talked about earlier. Most living areas will need adjustable ambient lighting (general lighting) levels for different occasions since this room is usually tailored to host several tasks and activities.
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Colour rendering is crucial in dining rooms and the creation of mood and atmosphere should be considered depending on the time of day. For dining rooms that are used in the evening, you can have lower lighting levels and adjustable ambient levels for day use.
Our kitchens are not just task spaces closed off by four walls anymore. In most layouts, they are now considered public socializing areas and therefore require several layers of light. Task lighting, adjustable ambient, and always general lighting.
Kitchen islands will come in various lengths and widths, however, designers often follow a few general guidelines. So if you've got your eye set on a particular pendant make sure to plan it out and don't be afraid to get have fun doing so.
Strong task lighting is a must in the bathroom especially if it's the bathroom you use to get ready in. However, powder rooms can get away with a little less since these rooms are often reserved for guests. Task lighting in the bathroom should ideally come from the direction of the mirror for tasks such as personal grooming.
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Last but Not Least - Do's and Dont's
Do remember the layered approach to lighting so you have a harmonious illumination of light.
Do consider all dimensions of the room, existing, and new furniture, and built-in millwork such as kitchen islands.
Do consider all tasks to determine what type of colour temperature (k) and light bulb type will be required. Also, consider electrical outlet placement when placing floor lamps and table lamp fixtures so cables are safe and out of sight.
Don't forget to plan your lighting fixtures and placement ahead of time especially before a renovation or new build.
Don't forget, we're here to help :)
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We love every aspect of a thoughtfully illuminated interior and we hope you find these tips helpful. To end off this post don't forget to check out these blogs where we further discuss more lighting tips and picked out a few of our favourite finds.